Early childhood development
A crucial period of development that lays the foundation for children's future well-being, learning and participation
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Approximately 3.6 million 3-4-year-old children lack access to age-appropriate early development services and opportunities and are therefore lagging in their development and at risk of failing to reach their full potential.
Children who fail to receive the nutrition and stimulation they need and/or are exposed to violence, abuse, neglect, and traumatic experiences are at higher risks of suffering from slow cognitive, physical, and emotional development.
Those living in the most excluded, disadvantaged and hard-to-reach communities are the most likely to be deprived of services or opportunities that promote their development.
Evidence shows that children from impoverished households face the biggest obstacles in terms of early childhood development; they are less likely to receive early learning support and have access to books at home. They are also half as likely to attend early education programs and are more exposed to inadequate care and severe corporal punishment.
These situations can have a detrimental effect on child development. Moreover, poverty-related risk factors tend to occur together. Therefore, the more risk factors in a child’s environment, the lower the child’s development. Risk factors lead to inequities in children's early childhood development, which in turn, impair school performance and productivity in adulthood, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and exclusion.
Effective early childhood development interventions
We believe that adequate nutrition, early stimulation, learning opportunities, protection and nurturing care are crucial for children to survive, thrive, learn, and participate - all of which are necessary to reach their full potential.
Therefore, effective, well-implemented and focused early childhood development interventions can increase children’s likelihood of succeeding academically and socially and becoming economically productive.
Giving children the best start in life increases their likelihood of becoming responsible and contributing members of society.
Our strategic areas of work
Through joint and coordinated work with States and other partners, UNICEF contributes to:
- Designing policies and strengthening comprehensive systems for early childhood.
- Promoting multisectoral interventions in development and humanitarian contexts to provide essential quality services for the most marginalized children and their families.
- Promoting behaviors and social norms that uphold children’s rights.
- Advocating for public commitment and more and better investment in early childhood.
- Monitoring the situation of children during their early years.